By Melissa Houghton

Torontonians often joke about having only two seasons: Winter and construction. Torontonians who are cinephiles enjoy three – that is, if you include Fall when announcements to kick-off awards season begin.

34th Independent Spirit Awards Nominations

The 2019 nominees were announced by Gemma Chan and Molly Shannon on Friday, November 16 at the Los Angeles W Hotel.

These coveted awards are bestowed for best in class independent filmmaking with budgets of no more than US $20MM. A Spirit Award nod is an early indicator of potentially landing a nom for additional industry award noms, such as a Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe, or Oscar.

But let’s not skip ahead, recognition to receive a Spirit Award is considered prestigious by independents given its designated category, range of genre and qualifying budget and personal criteria. Theoretically, if you don’t make it here you may not make it elsewhere during the awards season.

Nominees can be first time filmmakers, sophomores or veteran filmmakers we’ve not heard from in a long time. Categories including best feature, first feature, and feature made under $500,000 will be honoured during the upcoming ceremony.

Spirit Awards will be handed out next year in a tent, in Santa Monica, CA on February 23. Mark your calendar.

The Nominees

The field is rich with unique and diverse storytelling and extraordinary performances. Read further for my summary of YES! and WHAT? Here’s a partial list of the nominees:


Eighth Grade, First Reformed, If Beale Street Could Talk, Leave No Trace, You Were Never Really Here


Glenn Close in The Wife, Toni Collette in Hereditary, Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade, Regina Hall in Support the Girls, Helena Howard, Madeline’s Madeline, Carey Mulligan in Wldlife


John Cho in Searching, Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting, Ethan Hawke in First Reformed, Christian Malheiros in Soctrates, Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here


Debra Granik for  Leave No Trace, Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk, Tamara Jenkins for Private Life, Lynne Ramsay for You Were Never Really Here, Paul Schrader fo First Reformed


Hale County This Morning, This Evening; Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, On Her Shoulders, Shirkers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?


Raúl Castillo in We the Animals, Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman, Richard E, Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Josh Hamilton in Eighth Grade, John David Washington in Mosters and Men


Richard Glatzer (Writer/Story By), Rebecca Lenkiewicz & Wash Westmoreland for Colette, Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Tamara Jenkins for Private Life, Boots Riley for Sorry to Bother You, Paul Schrader for First Reformed


Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade , Christina Choe for Nancy, Cory Finley for Thoroughbreds, Jennifer Fox for The Tale, Quinn Shephard (Writer/Story By) and Laurie Shephard (Story By) for Blame


Joe Bini for You Were Never Reallly Here,  Keiko Deguchi, Brian A. Kates & Jeremiah Zagar, for We the Animals, Luke Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Chris Gill & Julian Hart for American Animals, Anne Fabini, Alex Hall and Gary Levy for The Tale, Nick Houy, forMID90S


Hereditary, Sorry to Bother You, The Tale, We the Animals, Wildlife


Kayli Carter in Private Life, Tyne Daly in A Bread Factory, Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie in Leave No Trace, J. Smith-Cameron in Nancy


Ashley Connor for Madeline’s Madelilne, Diego Garcia for Wildlife, Benjamin Loeb for Mandy, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for Suspiria, Zak Mulligan for We the Animals


I’m thrilled to see Joaquin Phoenix has been nominated for his electrifying performance in You Were Never Really Here. I personally didn’t hear much buzz about it when I was at Sundance, but I chose to see it simply because Phoenix is the lead. The early morning P&I screening I got into was worth the walk in frigid temps. The subject matter is grim, but I thought Lynne Ramsey’s muscular direction was spot on and I couldn’t look away from the screen.  So far, the film was recognized at Cannes for Phoenix’s performance and Ramsey’s screenplay. I trust this film will get more robust support leading up to awards night, it is that good.  My prediction for Best Male Lead, Best Director and Best Feature in a nutshell.


I read a poll just the other day that stated recommenders consider Acting to be the most important element of a film. With that said, here are some. Come on nom-com! How did you overlook these performances? Really?

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Ben Foster Leave No Trace, Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You, Armie Hammer in Sorry to Bother You, Robert Redford in The Old Man & the Gun, Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased, Charlize Theron in Tully, Evan Peters in American Animals, Ed Oxenbould in Wildlife and Nicolas Cage in Mandy …

Oh, yes Nicolas Cage. You don’t get a busload of out-of-town theology students fired up for a Sundance midnight madness screening without Cage. A special shout out to theology student, Jake, for sharing his wasabi peas at the Mandy screening.


For more information on the awards and a full list of nominee’s visit

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